It ain’t the heat; it’s the humility.”– Yogi Berra

It’s not about the money. What is your real inner motivation for how you handle money – how do you spend it, and how and why do you save it?

Having talked to thousands of people about their money, we have found that money is very emotional for people. How you handle it reveals what is really important to you – your core values.

Think about it – what’s important about money to you? The answer should be an emotion that is your inner driving force.

Based on the book, “Values Based Selling” by Bill Bachrach, we have asked the above question to thousands of people. Here are some of the most common answers to this question that people have told us in the last 15 years.

Some of these values may seem to overlap, but if you focus on how they feel, you will see that each feels very different. You may have several core values, but you will understand yourself and your relationship to money best if you know your main core value:

Security/Peace of mind

This is the single most common emotion people look for from their money, especially for women. If you are looking for security, you will want a comfortable nest egg and relatively safe investments. You may spend money on your family or home, which are most important to you, but otherwise prefer to save money to have a larger nest egg. You have a tendency to buy investments that are too safe and often end up with a nest egg that is far too small for you to really feel secure. You may not think about money much, other than either feeling warm and secure or feeling insecure about your future.


Real freedom is financial freedom. There are so many things that you can do if you have money that are just not an option otherwise. Many people really want their money to give them freedom. Freedom from a routine life that can be suffocating. Freedom to do whatever is important to you and gives your life meaning.

Reaching a point in your life where you have true freedom requires more money than looking for security, because you want to have the option to spend spontaneously on things that may seem frivolous to other people. You want to have options in your life.

You probably think about money quite a bit (how to get more of it). You look for creative ideas to make your money work harder and are probably an aggressive investor, but are susceptible to slick sales pitches or investing in ways that don’t really work.


Life for you is a series of experiences. Enjoying life and creating fun and rewarding memories are most important for you. You may make a good income, but are probably a spender and may have significant debts. You tend to think short term and therefore may have little or no savings or investments. Your spontaneous nature probably makes you a bad investor, but you can do well with a “hands off” strategy.


There is a quiet, inner confidence that comes from having money. If you look for inner self-confidence from your money, you may indirectly link your personal value to your net worth. Many millionaires (“Millionaire Next Door” book types) gain their self-confidence from having money, not spending money.

You are probably frugal, but generous to family, friends that are important to you, or certain charities. People in your life probably have no idea how much money you have. You may well accumulate more than you will ever need and may regret never spending much of it. Having money allows you to do what is important to you and, if necessary, make a real difference in the lives of people you care about.

You may be a confident, patient investor, but seeking self-confidence can drive you to invest in ineffective ways.


Respect is similar to self-confidence, except that it is more about others admiring you and appearing confident, rather than having an inner self-confidence. You like to own things that are good quality and have quality brand names. You may be a spender and have debt problems, never accumulating much wealth. You may be more interested in looking like you have money, than actually having it, but you need to have a reasonable nest egg to avoid ever losing face. You are likely very generous with family and friends, and even acquaintances. You have a tendency to be unfocused with scattered investments.


Money can mean you know you will never be a burden to your loved ones. Being financially dependent on someone else often comes with strings. Independence requires a reliable income and a solid nest egg. You may want to do everything yourself, whether you are good at it or not. If you know your weaknesses, you may well look for professionals you can trust in these areas to ensure your independence.

These are just a few of the core, emotional values. Everyone is unique, but most people have one main core value that essentially defines who they are.

A financial plan that does not look at your emotional values related to money can often seem like just a bunch of numbers. Once you understand what is important about money to you, you can learn to use money to make your life fulfilling.

We are curious about what type of people MDJ readers are. Of the above 6 core values, what’s important about money to you?

Ed Rempel is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA) who built his practice by providing his clients solid, comprehensive financial plans and personal coaching.  If you would like to contact Ed, you can leave a comment in this post, or visit his website  You can read his other articles here.

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Well written post. It has me thinking.

I have to respectfully disagree with your point on self-confidence.

My self worth isn’t determined by my net worth. Having money may give me freedom and independence but it doesn’t change who I am or how I feel about myself. That quiet inner confidence I possess has nothing to do with how much I have in the bank.

Great post Ed. If I were to choose from the labels that you mentioned, I would be a hybrid between Freedom and Self Confidence. Although, I don’t correlate my personal value with my net worth, the ability to accumulate wealth does give me “self confidence”.

Interesting. I would likely be a mix of Freedom and Security.

I suppose the whole point is that everyone is different without placing value judgement on any of the descriptions.

What I SHOULD have said was that I identify most with freedom and least with self-confidence.

Great post Ed!

I think we go through different stages in our life…right now with so much saving going on in my mid-twenties, I’m definitely thinking more about Freedom. 5 years down the road when I’m a bit more comfortable, things could maybe be different.

It’s definitely “security” and “freedom”. Others thing like respect and self confidence does not depend on money.

I’d say it depends how much you have. I wouldn’t call us wealthy, but my wife and I have a healthy income. And given our careers, we will never be hurting or destitute. As such, Security/Peace of Mind really means nothing to me. Almost all our friends and family are in the same position, so we’re all equals. As such, Respect wouldn’t mean much either. Though the opposite is true – you can lose a little respect for someone who makes a lot of money but has no savings and is in a lot of debt. I’d have to say Freedom and Fun/Happiness would be the ones I associate with most.

Independance is nice, maybe that’s something that would come up later in the career, or life.

Interesting post – I certainly know people in each of the categories.

I think my wife and all both fall squarely and fully in the Freedom category although I would say I’m very immune to slick sales ;)

I guess the lines are quite blurred, since hopefully in our achieved freedom, we’ll be stepping into the fun/happiness category but doing so responsibly.

For me, it’s all about the freedom (which is security) and independence. Being financially free is about having options for how to live your life. Those categories of “respect” and “self-confidence” really have nothing to do with money for me. I think it’s probably dangerous if you’ve got your self-worth and self-image that tied together with your finances.

For me, it is Freedom and Independence which, IMO, are closely related. (Like Sampson, I loathe slick salesmanship.). I don’t know if I will ever move into the Fun/Happiness camp since I’ve been a saver all of my life.

My wife is definitely Security/Peace of Mind. She doesnt’ think a lot about money, but the most important things to her would be a roof over her head that is her own, and no debt.

Aren’t freedom and security the main reason people accumulate money (or at least try to)? The rest probably haven’t heard that money can’t buy happiness, independence, respect or confidence lol.

Definitely food for thought though.

Definitely freedom!

With freedom comes opportunity and with opportunity comes choice and with choice comes independence!

Interesting post.

I guess for our household we’d be a mix of Security and Freedom.

Our goal is first to be Secure through not have any debt and building our nest-egg. The second goal would be to grow our finances to a point of having the freedom to travel and do the things we want, be more financially independent.

Security, hands down.

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for your interesting comments.

From our experience, most people have one deeper, underlying value related to money and it usually does not change during their life. If several sounds right, but you think deeper about them, you will probably realize that one is your main motivation and the other is just part of the path.

For example, Sauce, your post sounds like your real value is probably independence (or possibly freedom). Security is part of the path, because you need to be secure first, and you want freedom to travel, but the deeper underlying motivation is to be independent.

If you are thinking your value will change when you have more money or later in life, those values you expect to have later are probably your true value. The ones when you have less money or are younger are usually part of the path to get to your true value about money.

Think deeper – not just how you feel today, but what motivates you to be that way or want those things.


what about power?? a lot of money bring a lot of power in areas that you can never imagine. I guess you have heard the golden rule- he who has the gold makes the rules. but all the other points are good to. i prefer the freedom that having a lot of cash gives me and the fun and trips are not unpleasant either :)

I find I can relate to all of them, just with differing strengths, and maybe some are more prevelant than others at certain times in my life. I think I relate to Respect the least, and Security the most.

Hi All,

The score so far by my count is:

Freedom 12
Security 6
Independence 2
Self-confidence 2
Fun 1

That’s interesting. Among the thousands of people we have talked with, Security is the #1 answer and Freedom is usually #2. It appears that MDJ readers are more motivated by Freedom than the general public.


Thank you for the post, Ed.

Freedom has been the number one value for me, in term of my relationship with money. I’m a creative professional in the arts. My path is such that it’s taken decades to hone my craft to the point that my work is finally worth quite a bit in the marketplace. So I went for a very long time accepting no security, no nest egg at all, sometimes crushing debt, being attached to many strings, etc., in order to stick it out in this calling, always trying to hold to a sense of optimism. It is a calling for me, not a career choice, so there hasn’t really been an alternative but to accept lack of security.

So, at last I have money saved, a decent and rising income, no debt, and a fulfilling life and career. The compromise is…I’m now 50. And while I’m definitely shifting values to security, the freedom to live a somewhat irregular sort of life out of necessity will always remain a priority. I’m never going to retire, so that concept actually seems a little foreign!


According to me money can make me Independent and help me to increase my self-confidence.

freedom for me too – i’m in my mid-twenties and can’t wait to getout of the daily grind. great post imo – one of my faves.

At first glance – this post didn’t really spark my interest much – but reading through your comments Ed – it made me think more and you’re right.

For every person there is at least 1 underlying goal that everyone wants to achieve. Any everything else is part of that path. Very enlightening article by far. :)

I would have to go with self-confidence. If I don’t have a certain amount of cashflow/savings beyond my needs, I don’t feel good about my situation, and – by extension – myself.

When i have money i do have a sense of security, knowing i do not have to rely on someone is a big ego booster

I think for me it is a mix and a combination of several different factors of why money is important to me. In fact… for me… it is a piece of everything you have mentioned here. Part of the reason why I am a Finance major right now in my third year of college, is because I want to be able to know how to handle my money the best way that I can, because in my opinion… in the end the world revolves around money, and you better know to properly manage that money.

Till then,


Pretty much all those things you listed are important to me. But I’d say security outweighs the others by a long shot. I want to have wealth so I’m not completely screwed if my car breaks down or I get layed off. I want to be able to not be a “slave” to my job and be able to leave if I hate it.

Wealth brings a lot of change to your life. If you can manage and grow wealth properly I think you have a lot more options in life than those who can’t.

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for all your openness in sharing your value.

That makes the score:

Freedom 14
Security 8
Self-confidence 4
Independence 3
Fun 1


Hi Ed,

This was a great/interesting post.

As I think you know, it’s all about freedom for me while, for my wife it’s definitely security (but, she is not an MDJ reader so, probably doesn’t count in your tally).

Your on-going commitment to delve deeper and to offer a more “holistic” approach to financial planning services is/was new (in my experience) and continues to be a big part what makes me a happy client of yours.

Thank you!

Hi Ed, very thought provoking…when I initially read the article -what stood out was my long term goal…security…however, what also stood out was the behavior associated with a security mindset…conservative investing. i am now reconsidering my outlook – as maximizing returns (which is important to me…even tho I have a conservative mindset) may be in conflict with my personal investment objectives…meaning I may need to reconsider / retool what I’m doing. thanks for the wake up call ;)